Newlywed sailor and his wife become first-time pet parents to old homeless Pit Bull

Newlywed sailor and his wife become first-time pet parents to old homeless Pit Bull

Hoyt was a senior Pit Bull with few prospects for adoption. But the old dog’s ship came in when a Navy sailor and his new bride adopted him – and in doing so became first-time pet parents.

Sailor navigates his own destiny

In late 2016 Jenzel enlisted in the Navy.

“It was something I wanted to do for myself,” he shares, “to have a plan and be in control of my life.”

The following year the young sailor was deployed to sea. It would be the most memorable event of his Naval career to date.

“It was such a different experience for me,” Jenzel says, “being young and getting to visit so many beautiful places around the world I never imagined I could see.”

Jenzel serves out of Naval Base Norfolk, the largest naval base in the world. It is responsible to maintain operational readiness of the Atlantic fleet and is home to more than 70 ships and over 100 aircraft.

The young veteran and his wife, Rikki, currently live in Norfolk. They are learning to adapt to the frequent separations that are part of life in the Navy.

“We just got married last November 2019 and just enjoy every time spent with each other,” Jenzel shares. “Military life has taught us that this early on.”

“…we thought having a pet will lift our spirits”

Life in the military is life on the move. And that means leaving loved ones behind during deployments and sea duty that often take service members away from family for months at a time.

Jenzel and Rikki realized that they would be apart often. So the couple had an idea: they would adopt a companion pet to comfort Rikki when Jenzel was at sea. However, neither of them had ever had a pet before.

Newlywed sailor and his wife become first-time pet parents to old homeless Pit Bull

“It is actually my first time owning a pet, same with my wife,” Jenzel says. “I mainly wanted to adopt one for companionship. Going on underways really takes a toll on her being left at home and we thought having a pet will lift our spirits.”

And so the search began for a fitting companion.

The couple never imagined that their first pet would be an older dog, much less a senior Pit Bull.

Hoping for a home

Animal shelters are a place of last refuge for lost, abandoned, neglected, and unwanted animals.

Yet shelters are stressful environments – especially for pets who are old, ill, or with special needs.

Hoyt was eight years old when he entered Norfolk SPCA, which joined our free shelter partner program in 2015. The shelter waives adoption fees for veterans in our program who save eligible dogs and cats.

Little is known about Hoyt’s history or how he came to be homeless, yet he joined countless innocent animals hoping for a new chance at life. But as a senior pet and a bully breed his chances for adoption were dim.

It was at the Norfolk SPCA that Jenzel and his wife learned about Pets for Patriots and the many benefits we offer. The young sailor applied to our program immediately.

Less than a week later Jenzel and Rikki met Hoyt, the senior Pit Bull who would change their lives forever.

Old dog teaches first-time pet parents new tricks

Upon his adoption Hoyt was promptly renamed Kopi. While the old dog adjusted quickly to his new life it was his new people who had the most to learn.

“We are both first-time pet parents, so prior to Kopi coming home Rikki was especially frightened and anxious about what to expect since she was going to be alone at first in taking care of him. But once they spent time together,” Jenzel explains, “she found it so enjoyable. On days when underway hits harder, Kopi has really become a solace for her.”

It is important to remember that in military families the families serve as well. Military spouses, in particular, often live with high levels of stress.

Luckily the senior Pit Bull made it easy on Jenzel and his wife. Kopi adapted quickly and wasted no time becoming a welcome part of the family.

“He has been a great companion to her,” the sailor says, “he is very gentle and well-behaved. It took about a week for him to get used to his new home – finding his comfy spot on the couch, locating his food and water bowls, and going on our walks. Once both of them had settled into their new routine it felt like a breeze.”

“…we are all now complete”

Before long the young sailor was out to sea once again. However, now his absence was merely an opportunity for Rikki and Kopi to strengthen their bond.

Upon Jenzel’s return the threesome finally felt like family.

“It has been such a wonderful time that we are all now complete,” Jenzel shares. “A lot has happened. We took Kopi to the beach, gone on a shopping trip at Petsmart – thank you for the gift card! – visited the vet for a wellness checkup, working on our yard, and just enjoying outdoor play – especially when the weather is nice outside.”

Many people are under the impression that older pets are set in their ways. In fact, teaching new behaviors to senior animals improves their overall mental and physical health.

While Kopi had to learn about his new environment, people, and routines – his adopters had to learn how to be good pet parents.

“We’ve also tried teaching Kopi some tricks. He is now consistent with ‘sit’, getting better with ‘stay’ and still working on ‘fetch,'” Jenzel shares. “One favorite game of ours is ‘Kopi in the middle’ where we parents pass the ball to each other and Kopi tries to run after it.”

Serving veterans, saving pets

As a first-time pet parent, Jenzel appreciates how we make application and adoption so easy. Everything we do is intended to reduce barriers for veterans who want to adopt companion pets.

And the benefits we offer are designed to keep people and their pets together – for life.

“Definitely recommend adopting through Pets for Patriots!” he shares. “Our experience with them has been such a breeze. They are reliable and genuinely care for veterans and service members to get the help they need in the adoption process.”

Newlywed sailor and his wife become first-time pet parents to old homeless Pit Bull

Perhaps it was fate that Jenzel and Rikki decided to save a senior dog. After all, most older pets have spent time in a home. They are usually housebroken and know basic commands.

And older dogs and cats are especially grateful to be adopted; they seem to know they were given another chance at life.

“Kopi is so gentle and so sweet, despite what a lot of people think because of his breed. He is very friendly to people and pets we meet on our walks,” Jenzel shares. “We love that we can still get to play with him outside, especially at the beach, but also the quiet times that we have at home.”

Pit Bull makes his new humans better people

Kopi was one of countless senior pets in shelters across the country who had little hope for a home. Most adopters want much younger dogs and cats. They shy away from older animals due to concerns about their health, longevity, and unknown pasts.

But it did not take long for Kopi’s first-time pet parents to know that they made the right decision for their family. The senior Pit Bull has actually helped them become better people.

“We have only been with Kopi for a month as of writing this, but we can definitely say that he has changed our life for the better,” Jenzel says. “He has helped us become more responsible, patient, and loving. He is a great companion and we just love having him in our family.”


  1. Alyson

    Thank you for your service! What a happy family you have with Kopi. Such a lucky dog!

  2. Christine E

    So happy you adopted Kopi. He’s beautiful and I know he appreciates his second chance. So thoughtful of you. Wishing you many happy years together.

  3. Julie

    I have 2 pitbulls, ages 8 and 10, and they are the best now that they’ve ever been! Still active, but laid back and ready to chill and snuggle. Congrats on getting your best friend. 🐾🥰🐾

  4. Christine vercellino

    Pit bulls are the finest dogs ever. Loyal, smart, loving, funny
    They will be y your side and your friend tell forever.

  5. Mary Armbrust

    How wonderful! Thank you for giving him a chance. Clearly he is happy and proud to be a member of your family, and will be excellent protection for your wife when you are away at sea. Thank you for your service!

  6. Renee Risser

    Thank you for adopting an older dog. He now knows what a family is and he has a family to love and be loved by. You are wonderful thoughtful humans and I wish the three of you great times and close bonds.

  7. Rose & the kids

    So proud of you !!!!

  8. Julienne

    Nice teng and wifey!

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